We've run out of elections to waste – this is the last chance to make a difference on climate change

(The Guardian, 14 May 2019) We’ve wasted three decades since scientists first raised the warning.

I’m no expert on Australian politics – I don’t know all the cross-currents that will determine this week’s balloting.

But I do know a fair amount about the climate crisis, having written the first book on the subject back in 1989. So I can say with confidence that if Australians want to play a serious role in fixing the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced, this may be about the last election where people retain enough leverage to make a real difference.

Global warming, after all, is a math problem: how quickly can we reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its report last year, said that unless a fundamental transformation was fully underway by 2030, we stood no chance of meeting the targets the world set in the Paris climate accords. No matter what country you’re in, “fundamental transformations” don’t come overnight; if you want to dramatically trim carbon emissions in 2030, it means you better start in 2020.

That means that if Aussie politicians of all stripes are still passing around lumps of coal and fantasising about huge new coal mines, that’s not going to happen.

The good news is, if you want change, the timing couldn’t be better: the engineers have done their job so well that the cost of renewable energy just keeps falling. In much of the world it’s now the cheapest way to produce electrons (and that’s even without charging fossil fuel a penny for the damage it’s doing). That means we’re in a position to make truly fast strides in the right direction (especially those of us lucky enough to live on a continent washed by wind and bathed in the rays of the sun).

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The Guardian, 14 May 2019: We've run out of elections to waste – this is the last chance to make a difference on climate change